House GOP Didn't Blink, Focused On Defunding Obamacare
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And next, let's talk with Representative David Schweikert. He's in the studio with us. He's an Arizona Republican lawmaker, a member of the House majority that has insisted they will not approve a short-term government funding measure unless it also takes a bite from Obamacare.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, before we talk about who's to blame for the shutdown, let's just talk about practical results, because I know you wanted to avoid a shutdown and you wanted to stop Obamacare. You've ended up with a shutdown and Obamacare is in effect. Were the tactics the right tactics?
REPRESENTATIVE DAVID SCHWEIKERT: You know, I actually believe they were, but it's been fascinating because in some ways we had to go through - I don't want to refer to it as dance, but this process for a lot of the American people to actually start to tune in and understand what we were talking about, where the concerns were, and where we thought actually the way the healthcare law is written is damaging the economy and creating sort of the part-timing of America.
INSKEEP: Had there not been enough attention to this over the last three years?
SCHWEIKERT: No. Actually, that's what was fascinating. And we saw it in polling and even on your show a couple of weeks ago, talking about how many folks thought Obamacare was already in full effect. Or how many did not understand their own individual obligations.
INSKEEP: Or who thought it was a government-run health care program, which it is not.
SCHWEIKERT: Oh yeah, and it's much more complicated in the number of moving pieces. So if you look, I believe the House actually went back and forth and back and forth, and was one that kept offering alternatives, kept compromising.
INSKEEP: But in the end, the law goes into effect and the government shut down. What do you do now?
SCHWEIKERT: I'm hoping actually last night's final offer, which was let's have a conference committee and let's actually do what the process is supposed to do, where the House sends in their adults and the Senate find some adults, and they get together and they quickly sort of dice up saying, look, here's what we're willing to do, here's what you're willing to do.
GREENE: Well, Congressman, some would say on the Democratic side and some of your Republican colleagues, that that process is all well and good to have a debate about ObamaCare, but this is not the place for it - this funding battle. And I would ask about something that President Obama told Steve in an interview.
He said that there might be a Republican president at some point, and if a Democratic speaker of the House said: We're not going to raise the debt ceiling unless you pass background checks on guns. That would be a situation that Republicans might empathize with. Isn't there an argument that parties aside, politics aside, a debate over funding is not the place for this?
SCHWEIKERT: Well - and absolutely disagree. And, look, we both empathize; we both understand the juxtaposition policy. But this is the process. And if you look back, you know, over history, this is nothing new. I know we act very shrill, and the world is coming to an end, but this is a new. In the process actually is designed where you expect the Senate to throw back an offer. And you expect the House to do its dance, and...
GREENE: Over funding, I mean over government funding...
INSKEEP: Over temporary funding...
SCHWEIKERT: But it's over everything. And funding, you got to understand, the previous shutdowns, you know, what is it, 17 of them in the last -at least during my lifetime - have all been, in some subject, about funding.
GREENE: I wonder if you've spoken to John McCain, your Republican colleague. He's in the Senate from Arizona. He has suggested he didn't like ObamaCare, not a fan. But he said this, you know, we're not going to defend ObamaCare; that that battle is over and let's move on...
SCHWEIKERT: But there's actually a, sort of, one of my sadnesses and the misuse of language. If you look at our last sort of offer from the House, it was OK, we're no more defunding, no more delaying. We would like to delay the individual mandate just as big business has been given, just as 1200 other organizations have been handed from the administration. If you're going to treat all those one-way with a delay, why would you do that for individuals...
INSKEEP: The president has argued that the heart of the whole thing: It would ruin the insurance industry to delay that's what they've argued...
SCHWEIKERT: Well, then...
INSKEEP: ...to just move that back.
SCHWEIKERT: Yeah, but I don't know how you make that argument and then survive the fairness test of: Oh, by the way, you know, 1200 groups that in some ways or another substantially were supporters of this administration, or big business, get the special treatment. And then we also threw in saying, look, the law makes it very clear: Congress and their staff need to operate without the subsidy tax, the way the law's written. And I'm just surprised that there wasn't more movement on just the fairness issue coming out from the Senate.
GREENE: A couple of really good questions. Robert Costa of National Review was here yesterday, sitting there where you're sitting now - a really good reporter on Capitol Hill. He described the divide among House Republicans, said a silent majority of House Republicans think that this course is unwise. How would you describe the divide in your caucus?
SCHWEIKERT: Well come I think there is always a sense that it's very uncomfortable when now you're up against a government slowdown. None of us are happy on this and I don't care where you are ideologically. And I'm hoping that the House's proposal last night of let's get to a conference committee, and then let's start grinding out where we actually may have some commonality and some concerns, because this is not a monolith.
When I have unions contacting me as a Western State congressman saying: Please, we need the delay, we're very concerned, as more than the health care components it's also what it's doing to spouses and family members' coverage and also the 40 hour workweek.
GREENE: It just may be about 10 or 15 seconds. Is there a big division in your party right now and does that concern you?
SCHWEIKERT: I'm going to tell you, I see a division even on the left side. Even look at some of the last nights votes where we have Republicans voting no and the Democrats voting yes. It's more complicated than we keep trying to overly simplify it.
GREENE: We'll have to stop there. Arizona Republican Congressman David Schweikert, think so much for joining us this morning.
SCHWEIKERT: Nope, this is my idea of fun.
GREENE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.